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Sending and Returning

July 3, 2022 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 10:1–20

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

July 3, 2022

Luke 10:1-20

 “Sending and Returning”

This Fourth of July holiday weekend brings with it a great sending of people across our nation who are traveling at this halfway point of the summer. As we are all aware, there is great uncertainty with air travel right now. Lots of flights are being postponed or cancelled altogether, leaving travelers stranded and frustrated. But if there is a sending as people go away, there is also a returning as people come back home again. That is what we hear in today’s Gospel lesson: sending and returning. Jesus sends out the seventy-two who were called to go to all the places where Jesus himself would go, and proclaim: “The kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:11b). And after completing their mission, these seventy-two returned to Jesus, marveling at the power of Jesus’ Name that was revealed in this mission. All of this becomes the theme for preaching today, entitled, “Sending and Returning.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

So who were these seventy-two individuals? They are not named in Scripture. They may, or may not, have included the original twelve apostles. From the inner circle of Peter, James and John who were present with Jesus at pivotal moments in his ministry, to the wider circle of the twelve apostles, there were others in a still wider circle who also followed Jesus, but whose names and identities are not known. We see them here today in this sending to prepare communities for Jesus’ arrival with these well-known words: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2). To this very day, whenever we think about the mission field that is all around us, Jesus’ words here are called to mind.

The harvest field is an apt image for Jesus’ mission. In the agricultural world, there is a window of time in which the harvest can be gathered in. This is the very time of year in which the wheat harvest is starting up in the midsection of our country. As any farmer will tell you, you are racing against the clock and against the weather. You want to have all the workers needed to get the job done as quickly as possible. Jesus is telling his disciples then and now that, like a ripe wheat field, his own mission field needs all the workers he can find. The day is coming when that window of time will close. That is the great and final day when Jesus will reveal himself in all his glory and power. Until then, there is a great sending now underway to share the good news that in Jesus the kingdom of God really has come near! God the Father sent his only Son to be that good news for the world. Jesus, who lived, died, and rose again to set us free us from sin, death, and the power of the devil, is the good news that makes an eternal difference. He loves us with an everlasting love not even death can destroy. As the Father sent his Son, so the Son now sends us into the harvest fields of the world with this good news.  

When all is said and done, it’s important for us to bear in mind that the mission belongs to Jesus. It’s his mission, not ours. As Jesus invited those seventy-two individuals in today’s Gospel lesson into the harvest fields and sent them forth, so Jesus invites us to do the same today. You don’t have to be a called church worker to be part of Jesus’ mission and do his work. As Greg Finke reminds us (Dwelling 1:14 (dwelling114.org), each and every one of us is called to serve as Jesus’ everyday missionaries in all the places where he has called us in life: our homes and neighborhoods, our places of work and leisure. The Lord has placed you where you are to be his presence, his voice, his hands and feet and mouth. Not everyone will welcome the message that we bring, as Jesus makes clear. We have our own places like Bethsaida, Chorazin and Capernaum today, but it doesn’t mean that we shy away from going to these places. We are still sent to them. Why? Because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The world – not just select people or some places, but the world. That is the wideness of God’s love in Jesus. It is a love that is willing to be rejected.

On my dresser at home is this little picture of Jesus knocking at the door. It belonged to my mother and was always on her dresser. You’ve probably seen this as it’s been widely circulated in Christian art. When we look at this, we often think Jesus is knocking at our door in order for us to open up so that he can come in; come into our hearts and homes. But it might be that Jesus is knocking at our door inviting us to come out and join him on his mission. We may feel like we’re not ready for this. What if we mess up and say the wrong thing? What if we get asked a question that we don’t have an answer for? What if we get rejected by people? We’ve got lots of “what if’s,” which means that we need to be encouraged. Remember, it’s not our mission, but Jesus’ mission. He chooses to use imperfect, broken people like you and me to accomplish the work of his kingdom. That’s the kind of sending Savior we have. Like those first disciples, we may be mighty impressed with all that Jesus may choose to do through us, as they returned and said to him: Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17b). But the truly amazing thing, and the best part of all, is this simple truth that Jesus tells us: “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20b).

As part of today’s worship service, we are commissioning youth and adult leaders to go to the LCMS Youth Gathering in Houston (2022 LCMS Youth Gathering | In All Things (lcmsgathering.com). We are sending them forth from our midst in Jesus’ Name to be our representatives at the Youth Gathering. This is an amazing experience for young people to have, gathering with other young people from around the nation and the world to celebrate the faith we share in Christ. And after the Gathering is over, they’ll return home once again – tired, but rejoicing. After they return, ask them what the Gathering was like, what it meant to them, and how it helped them grow in faith. Thank you, members and friends of St. John’s, for your support that enables these young people to go to the Gathering. Helping fellow believers is what Paul writes about in today’s Epistle lesson (Galatians 6:1-10, 14-18): “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

In our sending and in our returning, our mission is always to point people to Jesus. Amen.

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